Thursday, August 26, 2010

Choices we make define our health

The Gulf Today, 26 Aug 2010

A nationwide awareness on lifestyle diseases and methods to control must be the top priority for healthcare planners, observed a panel of healthcare industry chiefs in light of a study carried out by Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
The DHA’s household health survey had unveiled alarming statistics on the present health conditions of the residents. The study gave insights into the catastrophic height of challenges currently faced by the people.
Among the adults in the emirate, 10 per cent are diabetic, with a prevalence rate at 16 per cent among citizens, and 8 per cent among expatriate communities, with a huge variation among the diabetics of different age groups.
A total of 8.1 per cent adults living in Dubai suffer from high blood pressure, which is more than eight times more common in nationals than among expatriates.
The prevalence of hypertension among citizens is at 22.26 per cent, while it is at 2.75 per cent among the expats.
About 13 per cent of the expat community in Dubai is in the clutches of a smoking habit, while only 8.62 per cent of the Emiratis smoke.
And when it comes to passive smoking, 15 per cent of the total population suffers from the danger that affects 16 per cent of the expats and 11.44 per cent of the Emiratis. People between 18 and 39 years are the highest smokers group.
A healthcare expert opined that the risk groups of lifestyle diseases must be identified and adequate measures should be implemented to tackle their health issues. Provision of early treatment must be undertaken.
Regarding the reasons of the various lifestyle diseases which are currently plaguing the country, Gulf Medical University and Hospital’s chief Thumbay Moideen said that the risks are not due to the migration trend continuing in the country. “The diseases arise out of incorrect nutrition, lack of physical activity and stress related factors,” he noted.
“Diabetes and hypertension develop due to the increasing affluence seen in the current society and compounded by improper nutrition and lack of physical activity,” pointed out Moideen.
Dr KP Hussain, managing director and CEO of Fathima Healthcare Group, said that most of the general public lack knowledge to lead a healthy lifestyle. The situation worsens with the social environment, which is related to work pressures and its associated risk factors and to the living conditions.
“Hypertension is the second common lifestyle disease in the UAE. Most of the high blood pressure sufferers in the country go undiagnosed, leading to serious complications in their conditions. So, the public should be conscious on how to achieve good health,” he added.
He said that the expatriates in the UAE staying away from their families back home are suffering from damages to their psychological and physical health.
According to Dr Nawab Shafi ul Mulk, chief of Global Hawk Telemedicine Services in Dubai, the ever-continuing migration trend is one of the reasons for increasing some lifestyle diseases.
“The South Asian immigrants are also having high prevalence rates of diabetes, due to their sedentary lifestyle, improper diet or unhealthy meal choice. Diabetes has emerged as the fifth leading cause of deaths among Asians and Americans,” he elaborated.
Dr Mulk observed that most of the smokers fail in their efforts to escape from the world of cigars, even if they really wish to quit the habit. “They should be provided with appropriate assistance, tools and education to support long-term smoking cessation,” he pointed out.
He also warned that chronic illnesses like lung cancer can take alarming proportions in future, as more young people and expatriates resort to smoking to alleviate their stress level.
Dr Azad Moopen, chairman of DM Healthcare Group, a chain of private healthcare facilities in the region, observed that lifestyle diseases, diabetes and hypertension in their severe conditions are more common among locals than expatriates. “It’s not because of hereditary or geographical factors as many used to attribute,” he said.
“Most of the expatriates working in the UAE are aged between 25 and 55 years. As the number of older members is very less among the population, the serious impact of lifestyle diseases among the expats is also very less,” pointed out Dr Moopen.
“Meanwhile,” he attributed the reason to higher prevalence of a smoking habit among the expats “to their higher levels of tension and pressures for survival in a foreign country, as well as the feeling of alienation.”
“The expatriates also prefer to continue the food habits of their home countries in the Gulf, which has its own styles and culinary habits matching the particular climatic conditions and geographical specialities. This also increases the chances of falling prey to numerous illnesses,” said Dr Moopen.
He called for organising integrated detection drives at labour camps, and bachelor accommodations, focusing on the areas where the lower-income strata are active.
(Photo used for illustrative purpose)

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